I have become caffeine sensitive as I get older so around mid-afternoon I have to leave my beloved tea behind and turn to an herbal beverage to enjoy. My number one favorite, hot or iced, is South African Rooibos. A bush that is grown in the Cedarberg mountain area of South Africa, the leaves are harvested and processed much like the tea plant, camellia sinensis. Its name, rooibos, means “red bush” in Afrikaans. When the leaves are allowed to oxidize like black tea, they turn a beautiful reddish color.
Oxidation of the leaf means that the leaves are spread out and exposed to the air thus turning them darker. Green rooibos, like green tea, is not allowed to oxidize. For a more scientific explanation of the process, click here.
The color of the hot tea is a dark, reddish brown and looks a lot like certain types of black tea. It has a full herbaceous body with flavor notes of spice, citrus and vanilla. It is strong enough for the addition of milk but I usually enjoy it plain. In addition to tasting really good, it is reputed to have all sorts of health benefits.
When the weather turns hot like it has here in New England the last few days, I use the cold steeping method to create iced rooibos. Simply fill a container with fresh cold spring water and then add one tablespoon of rooibos leaves for every 6 ounces of water. Steep the leaves overnight in the fridge and then strain into another container in the morning. I love to drink this full strength but others prefer to dilute this with water and ice. You can float lemon or orange slices in it to add more of a citrus flavor. Yummy and refreshing!
Another favorite is called “Sweet Coconut Thai” made by Celestial Seasonings. Amongst other spices and natural flavors, it contains rooibos! It is all natural, no sugar added and caffeine free. It tastes like Chai tea with a hint of a coconut flavor note. I love coconut so this is heaven in an herbal teacup for me. I found it in the tea section of my local grocery store and it comes in a box of 20 tea bags.
What are your favorite herbals?